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“Hero’s Ride of a Lifetime” Nominated Veteran

Neil Frustaglio is more than a military hero; he’s an unstoppable force.

Raised up in Ishpeming, Michigan on hunting and fishing and “riding anything with a motor,” Neil went from high school straight to boot camp in San Diego, then on to infantry school and mortar training at Camp Pendleton, CA.

After Neil was selected for Marine Corps Security Forces school in Chesapeake, VA, his next billet was securing nuclear weapons with Marine Corps Security Force Battalion at Sub Base Bangor in Washington State, where he was promoted to corporal.

In 2005, Neil returned to Camp Pendleton to join Weapons Company, 3/7 Marines, and deployed with them to Ramadi, Iraq to conduct counterinsurgency ops. Three weeks before Christmas, Neil’s element sustained an IED blast, disabling the vehicle behind him.

While securing the area and organizing defenses, Neil was blown to the ground by a second blast with a fuel-enhanced weapon that swept the legs of everyone standing near him. Five Marines suffered traumatic amputations in that instant. Disregarding his own injuries, Neil was dragging himself to the aid of his comrades when his vision faded. The last thing he heard in Iraq was a buddy telling him he would be alright.

Neil awoke in Landstuhl, Germany with both legs amputated above the knee and a fifth of his body scorched with third-degree burns. Flown to Bethesda Naval Hospital, he endured 24 surgeries in less than two months before commencing his “lost year” of prosthetic rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Hospital. Only 22 years old, Neil defied conventional thinking by insisting that not only would he ambulate without a walker, he would stand to salute his unit upon their return – and motivate his fellow Marines to do the same. Of five men who lost limbs that day, three were able to greet 3/7 upon its return from Iraq.

Neil’s next goal was fulfilling the plans his fiancée and he had set in place before deployment. On September 6, 2006 – ten months after his legs were blown off – Neil married Pam, the woman he had met and committed to while stationed at Bangor. Following the ceremony, they walked down the aisle together.

Neil was medically retired from the Marine Corps in January, 2007. He and Pam moved into an accessible house built for them in Texas by the Homes for Our Troops program, where they live with their children Dillinger, Duncan, and Rose.

Restless for more education, Neil earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from Arizona State University in 2016. He works, serves on the board of M1 For Vets, holds memberships in Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and is riding again: Neil now blasts around the Southwest on a V-twin powered street trike.

Ironically for a combat Marine, Neil’s best friend has become Joshua Stein, an amputee army veteran who also loves to ride. This year, the two motorcycle brothers will join together on Veterans Charity Ride’s “Hero’s Ride of a Lifetime” and head for the 77th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, about which Neil says:

“To get to ride with a bunch of other vets to Sturgis — there are guys who ride for twenty years, thirty years and they’ve never gotten to make that trek!

“And with my best friend? There’s no price that can be put on that.

“It’s perfect.”

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